e2Campus alert system combats rising crime

A Florida A&M University student recently became the victim of a car burglary, in which her property was illegally removed.

On Oct. 22 there were three separate reported incidents of burglary, including an armed robbery.

Martesha Williams, 21, a junior political science student, had her car window smashed and her radio stolen in one of these incidents.

FAMU’s campus has been experiencing a spate of crimes ranging from shootings to car burglaries.

Williams said that the incident occurred between the time she parked her car, at 12:50 p.m., and the time she returned at 2:17 p.m.

“I parked in the parking garage on the 3rd floor, and I went to my Use of Info Resources class,” Williams said. “When I was walking back to my car I saw that there was broken glass on the floor.”

Williams said that upon seeing the glass she wasn’t sure if the glass had come from her car, but on closer inspection she realized that her window had been destroyed and her radio gone.

“I saw that the radio was stolen so I called 911 and they directed me to FAMUPD,” Williams said. “It took them [police] an hour to get there.”

Williams explained that FAMUPD proceeded to dust her car for fingerprints. However, there was a hitch.

“They couldn’t really get any fingerprints because the texture of the car didn’t allow for that,” Williams said. “They [FAMUPD] took the serial number for the radio and the officer said he was sorry it happened and that they would be investigating it.”

Williams said that she asked the officer if there were any cameras, which could have possibly captured the criminal in action. However, the officer said that getting a good description depended on whether the thief was facing the camera or not.

She said she has not been in contact with FAMUPD because she was concentrating on a more pressing issue.

“My main focus was on replacing my window,” Williams said. “I wasn’t worried about how long the investigation was taking.”

The Fort Lauderdale resident, however, said that she went to the Department of Student Welfare of the Student Government Association and filed a complaint. Williams is currently waiting to hear from FAMUPD and DSW.

At 12:10 a.m. on Oct. 23, subscribers to the e2Campus alert system received either a text or e-mail, from the FAMU Department of Public Safety, informing them that an armed robbery had occurred in the parking garage. The notification stated that were three suspects, all black males, in a grey Chevy Impala.

A description, some students believe is too limiting.

“Although the system is a great idea, the descriptions can stand to be more descriptive,” said Kiah Simmons, a sophomore pre-physical therapy student from Orlando. “It is not as detailed as it can be. Because of that, some people may be wrongly accused because they may be generally stereotyped.”

However, assistant chief of police at FAMUPD, James Lockley Jr., said that whatever e2Campus subscribers are notified with is exactly the description that the victim of the crime provided to the police.

“What we give out is what we receive,” said Lockley.

Lockley continued.

In the case of the late night armed robbery in the parking garage, Lockley said that the victim, a TCC student, was very uncooperative, and that was the description he gave to the police.

“We tried to extract vital information,” Lockley said. “But he wasn’t cooperative… it’s an ongoing investigation.”

In reference to the rising crime on campus, Lockley said that students as a whole were not being careful, and it was because some students grew up sheltered.

“A lot of students think it’s safe to leave their belongings around…and their room doors open,” Lockley said. “The same criminal[s] you left back home are here too.”

Lockley said the police patrol the entire campus to ensure safety. He also said that there were other entities regularly watching activities occurring on campus, like Parking Services.

The assistant chief of police said that students were also involved in the fight against crime and encouraged students to use the ‘blue

lights emergency system,’ are functional tested at least once a month.

Nevertheless, he urged students to be more careful.

“These kinds of things happen in shopping malls, grocery stores and other campuses,” Lockley said. “Thieves look for opportunities. Leave things out of sight… don’t have your purse in your [car] seat in plain view [and] help us [FAMUPD] by being cautious.”

In the meantime he said that FAMUPD is working on closing cases. However, this is not easy.

The FAMUPD officer said that when investigating crimes the number of individuals it takes to work on each case differs.

There are currently three investigating officers at FAMUPD, according to Lockley. But the department, when it needs to, pulls from both local and state law enforcement.

“If we need additional investigators outside of what we have we can pull from city, county and even the FDLE [Florida Department of Law Enforcement],” Lockley explained. “Law enforcement works as a cohesive unit to get criminals from off our streets.”

Meanwhile students and the wider FAMU community will have to depend on the e2Campus system to keep them in the know about serious incidents on campus.

Corporal Sherri Luke, of FAMUPD’s Crime Prevention Unit, is encouraging all those who come in contact with the university and its surrounding areas to sign up for the e2Campus alert system.

Luke said she believes it is the most effective way of making people aware of campus crime. Even though the descriptions might not be to their liking.

“We try to put out information as accurate as we can,” Luke said. “There may be a lapse in time [that the information is put out] but this may be because victims are confused, shaken up or just weren’t ready to give a report.”

Luke said that usually the CPU looks for descriptions that aid them in identifying the suspect(s).

“Scars, clothes, tattoos…any distinguishing marks; that’s what we’re looking for,” Luke added.

However, Luke said that there were limitations to the system wherein subscribers received notifications via text messaging.

“Texting is limited to 120 characters,” Luke said. “The first 125 characters are abbreviated, for instance LSH is last seen hit…”

Luke said that anything after 125 goes into the email notification and this is why it was important for students to register their e-mails.

Luke explained that FAMU uses the e2Campus alert system strictly for law enforcement so that when students get the alert they are aware of the situation’s gravity.

“It’s a companion to the siren system,” Luke said. If outside you’ll hear it, inside you’ll feel the cell phone vibration.”

The Crime Prevention Unit corporal said she believed that e2Campus was an integral part of the fight against crime.

“It’s the best tool that crime prevention can have…a great part of the crime prevention arsenal.”

Luke however noted that the system was only as good as the number of students who are subscribed users. She said she felt everyone should be required to sign up. But there are drawbacks to doing this.

“The problem with it is that your cell phone is personal, we can’t force people to do that,” Luke said. “OurFAMU e-mail is different we can give you that. We’re working on getting all the ‘edu’s’ [Fam Mail users]… signed up.”

According to Lockley, the e2Campus alert system has helped in the fight against crime.

“As quick as you can send a text we can send a message to you,” Luke said. “It has helped. We had a robbery in the band parking lot, we were able to get the info to students who were able to say ‘we saw this person going out there’.”

Luke said she wished more students would sign up for the free alert system; there are approximately 1800 subscribers.

“As a parent I would want to know what’s going on,” Luke said. “I’m the parent of a FAMU student so I do want to know what’s happening on campus.”

Students can sign up for e2Campus by going to OurFAMU, lower left corner, and follow instructions.

“If you say you’re concerned about campus safety wouldn’t you sign up?” Luke asked.

In the meantime, Williams has paid $207 to repair he car window. The experience has affected her and she is now very aware of where she parks.

“I haven’t parked in the garage since that day,” Williams said. “When I do park in the stadium I park as close to the stairs, not far from the public. So if something happens someone will see.”